Brands that market to multicultural audiences have found music as a key approach to connecting across generations. But multicultural marketers sometimes overlook the many facets differentiating their target audiences, ranging from differing countries of origin to local cultures and experiences. To truly connect, marketers must craft precise messages for specific segments rather than treating the multicultural community as a singular audience.
However, doing that kind of grassroots outreach can be a challenge, not because brands aren’t committed to improving their cultural fluency—they are—but because the pursuit of scale can wash out the most meaningful cultural connection points. A growing set of data shows music has an outsized influence on multicultural audiences, like Latino and Hispanic communities, because of the large role musicians and music culture plays in their daily lives, according to Nielsen.
That’s an important insight, but it’s also a broad one that can lead to thoughts like, book a superstar artist for a campaign aimed at a Latino audience. This shotgun approach speaks to a generalization, not an individual person. And, remember, music is incredibly personal, as evidenced by the unique playlists that increasingly soundtrack our everyday lives.
My own family illustrates the need for a more nuanced approach to multicultural marketing. We’re Hispanics, but Julio Iglesias means something very different to my father, to me and to my 8-year-old son. For my father, listening to Julio Iglesias would drum up feelings of nostalgia, taking him back to his homeland and culture in Spain.
For me, hearing Julio Iglesias offers a similar sense of nostalgia. The difference is that it reminds me of my parent’s journey from their homeland, leaving comfort behind, and taking on the exciting challenge of making a new life for their future family. My identity is more wrapped up in the aspects of American culture that resonates with me, rather than the music from my parent’s home country. As a result, Julio Iglesias is an important connection point between my father and me but because of my American culture, I'd personally prefer to listen to Enrique over Julio.
And then there’s my son, who is a huge Shawn Mendes fan. As he grows up, my son may find some relevance in Julio Iglesias, but for him that music will likely speak to the themes of acculturation and familial disjointedness that are common to first-generation American Hispanics. Although I might listen to Shawn Mendes, my father certainly wouldn’t have, and my son would not sit down to listen to Julio or Enrique Iglesias, despite the fact that the latter appears on my personal playlist. There is obviously a generational connection through music here, but even within one family—three males of similar backgrounds—there is room for cultural miscalculation.
These cultural differences create vastly different mindsets and backgrounds for various segments of the multicultural market, and they can play out in a variety of ways. For example, some Latinos speak Spanish everywhere, while others only speak it at home, and some don’t speak it at all. Those variations can’t be understood with a broad brush, but they do make sense when you contextualize them by generation, geography, country of origin and a host of other factors.
As more companies work to widen their appeal into the multicultural market, there can be misfires. Misunderstood messaging happens all the time, even to the best marketers. But the key to avoiding overly broad, monolithic messages is to learn from those mistakes. When marketers consider cultural nuances in selecting which music and artists to align their brands with, they can drive massive results, because they’re leveraging their own fluency. And as any musician will tell you, that’s how you get an audience to listen.